| The Rani Bakhri palace in Sambalpur. Telegraph picture |
Sambalpur, Jan. 29: The historical Rani Bakhri (Queen’s palace) and the Raja Bakhri (King’s palace) here are on the brink of collapse for want of maintenance and preservation measures.
The fifth king of Sambalpur, Baliyar Singh, built the three-storey Rani Bakhri probably in 1650. The Rajasthani miniature paintings, which had been engraved on the palace wall, made it a rare monument of beauty. However, water seeping through the roof has already erased many of the paintings. Legend has it that Baliyar Singh built the palace as a mark of love for his daughter.
“It is a shame that the palace has turned into a garbage dump now. This place could be developed as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to preserve and protect the historical monument. The road, which connects Rani Bakhri, is so narrow that a four-wheeler cannot pass through it,” said Deepak Panda, a local resident, who is also a writer.
“The land beside the palace has already been encroached upon. Several houses have come up around the palace. Those have hidden the structure from view,” Panda said.The condition of the two-storey Raja Bakhri, built by King Chhatra Sai at the beginning of the 17th century, is no different. The palace has around 40 rooms.
“Surendra Sai had stayed in this palace for a few days. On October 7, 1857, Sai came to Sambalpur with 1,200 supporters and the British government did not dare to stop him. He stayed at Raja Bakhri during that period. Freedom fighters had waved the national flag from the Raja Bakhri here during the freedom movement,” Panda said.
Local residents said repairs had been carried out at two palaces in 2001. However, nothing has been done since then.
“A park could be developed by the Raja Bakhri to attract people and highlight the palace,” suggested another local resident.
“People from across the state come to Sambalpur to visit the Samaleswari temple, Ghanteswari Pitha, Huma temple and Hirakud dam. If these two historical monuments are renovated, tourists will get an opportunity to know about the history of this old city. The local municipality or the Sambalpur Development Authority should take the responsibility to preserve the structures,” said Antaryami Panigrahi, another local resident.
Culture officer of Sambalpur Sanatan Naik admitted that urgent measures were needed to preserve the monuments.
“I had visited the palaces. Both are in bad shape. We will send a proposal to the government for the preservation of the monuments,” he said.